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Fire, Fury and the G20

Alexandre T. Gingras
September 21, 2017

The G20 leaders' communiqué issued at the Hamburg Summit in July tackled many issues, such as the economy and environment, health, and employment. Absent from the statement, however, were global security issues other than terrorism. This is not surprising considering the ongoing Ukraine and ISIS conflicts controversially involve G8-suspended member Russia. The G20 also remained quiet on North Korea's dangerous nuclear programme.

Nearly a decade after becoming a gathering of world leaders, the G20 still shies away from getting directly involved in matters of war and peace. This matters, as the G20 may be one of the last forums left capable of finding a solution to the threat from North Korea. The like-minded G7 with its limited membership does not suffice, and UN sanctions have had no effect on Kim Jong-un's resolve to achieve full nuclear power status.

Security matters were raised at the G20 summit in Germany. However, those discussions were held primarly in bilateral meetings. U.S. president Donald Trump's talks with his Russian and Chinese counterparts resulted in neither cooperation or confrontation, but rather continued competition between the three big powers, playing straight into the North Korean strategy of division.

The current nuclear crisis demands that security be brought within the purview of the G20. Its members of Russia, China, Japan and South Korea have the most immediate stakes in seeing the conflict resolved, or at least deescalated.

A precedent for this exists. Russia did summon the G20 foreign ministers to St. Petersburg when chemical weapons were used in Syria in the fall of 2013, as the U.S. was threatening a strike on the Assad regime. Parallels between this event and the ever-changing situation in the Korean peninsula can easily be drawn.

With Germany reactivating the G20 top diplomats group in February for an informal meeting of G20 foreign ministers, it would be worthwhile to build on the momentum and for a majority of the foreign ministers to reconvene promptly to find and agree on a solution on North Korea.

The G20 foreign ministers have a flexibility that their leaders do not. This can help pave the way to producing a coherent, credible and compelling response that goes beyond sanctions to the most dangerous escalation the world has seen in decades.

Time is running out. A global crisis demands a global response. The North Korean runaway train of nuclear threats must be met by a united front of G20 members. The organization owes it to the world to muster all its courage and step up to one of the greatest challenges of our times.

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Alexandre GingrasAlexandre T. Gingras holds a master's degree in peace and conflict studies from the University of Uppsala and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Ottawa. He has worked in the House of Commons, the Senate and Leader of the Official Opposition's Office at the Parliament of Canada and has served as Executive Assistant to the Right Honourable Paul Martin, where he seconded the former Prime Minister in his activities regarding the G20 and the protection of the Congo Basin Rainforest. In his 2010 thesis, Pre-emptive Peace: Collective Security and Rogue States in the 21st Century, he advocated for the creation of a G20 foreign ministers' group to deal with global security matters.


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